Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The lead off spot is up for grabs, and we hate it

It only took 6 days of the regular season for Nats Manager Jim Riggleman to decide he'd seen enough of Ian Desmond in the top spot in the batting order. Desmond was 0-for-13 in his first 3 games this season, and the fact that there's another young speedster in Espinosa that started the season 4-for-9 at the time of Riggs' decision didn't help Desi's cause.

But was it the right one? Sure, Ian Desmond's bat couldn't have started the season off any colder. He struck out a bunch on Opening Day and looked terrible doing it. But what about Desmond's success during the 2010 campaign?

Ian Desmond flourished at the top of the batting order in 2010 once he was given the opportunity to do so. Just 13 at-bats in one season hardly seems like enough of a sample size to make such a decision that will undoubtedly affect the mental stability of the young shortstop. Hopefully this doesn't affect his defensive improvements.

All that said, we are generally impartial to whichever young middle infielder leads off. Espinosa seems to be a more natural lead off type. He has some pop in his bat, but he also has an above-average ability for speed, and speed is something that the Nats lack a lot of in their current lineup without Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina.

Meanwhile, Desmond has a more proven track record in his ability to hit for average and get on base (though a .308 OBP in 2010 is nothing to write home about for a lead off man). He hits for less home run power than Espinosa, which means it may serve the Nats better to have Espinosa down a bit in the lineup with guys hitting in front of him since he certainly is unable to compete with Werth, Zimmerman, and LaRoche for the middle spots.

So regardless of who is up there, it seems it may be a push, and it will be impossible to know if the Riggleman does as he promises and continues to swap the two between the lead off spot from game to game. Baseball players work best based on patterns and comfort, and that's not something that Riggs is providing with the early-season switch and a lack of firm roles for young players.

While we don't care much about which guy bats first, we hate the idea of no continuity in the lineup from game to game. What say you, readers? Like the move or dislike it? Let us hear your thoughts.


  1. Here's what I want - 1.Pick our 8 players per game that are our starting line- up. 2.Add a pitcher.3.LET THEM PLAY THE WHOLE GAME( well, not the pitcher - but he should pitch at least 7). Repeat this process for at least 10 straight games
    4. Use bench players/ pinch hitters ONLY in the pitchers spot when absolutely necessary.Is this too much to ask?

  2. Agreed that it's a small sample size, but I'd say a .308 OBP is actually pretty bad. It's not ideal to thrust the leadoff responsibility onto Espinosa's young shoulders, but they may have no alternative. Could Espinosa possibly get on base less than Desmond?

    What about batting Espinosa leadoff and Desmond second? The two spot just doesn't seem like the optimum use of Werth.

  3. There's another option. Stop screwing around with Ankiel and recall the Sharkadina from Syracuse and let him play CF and bat leadoff. Maybe he'll succeed, maybe he'll fail, but it's hard to see how he'd be a worse option either way than what we have out there right now.

  4. Nobody with an OBP that low belongs anywhere near the top half of any major league lineup. The team as a whole needs to learn to take a walk. Of the 7 highest OBPs on the team last year, only Zim and Morse are still around and Morse didn't even play in 100 games. Add in Werth, and only those three guys had even a league average OBP last year. Doesn't even matter who hits leadoff, this team will have lots of trouble scoring runs giving up all those extra outs.